If you have ever delved into the deepest crevasses of the internet you may have stumbled upon your favorite book characters in a situation you've never read before, at least not by the author of that book. That story is called fanfiction. To some authors, it's murky place on the internet relflcts its station in life perfectly, to others, they encourage fans to drive into the darkest depths in search for their own creativity.
I have never had an opinion on it. I've read it before, but never written it. I've had friends in high school who were obsessed with writing and reading it. Now though, as a writer who has been published, I have a solid opinion on it now: If you want to write go for it, if you want to write about another person's characters go for it, if you want to write a story in another person's world go for it, if you want to put it on the internet for other people to read stop.
That's where I have to draw the line. While I think that using other people's work as inspiration is a great tool to kick-off your own writing and character building, but if you are going to write a story using the exact characters then keep it off the internet.
Those characters we create are our children, those world we create are our homes and the work that we put in to get our stories published by creditable magazines and publishing houses is incomparable to hitting the "publish" button on fanfiction.net.
Putting my own options aside, there was a great article written in 2012 on Flavorwire called "Abusing the People of Westeros: Famous Authors on Fan-Fiction" that pulled some differing perspectives fro authors on the subject I wanted to share that vary from indifferent to abousltly savage.
Starting with Westeros creator himself George R.R. Martin, author of A Song of Ice and Fire, he writes, “Every writer needs to learn to create his own characters, worlds, and settings. Using someone else’s world is the lazy way out,” an continues with, "My characters are my children…I don’t want people making off with them, thank you. Even people who say they love my children. I’m sure that’s true, I don’t doubt the sincerity of the affection, but still…No one gets to abuse the people of Westeros but me.”
Martin is clearly against the idea of fanfiction and aligns with my view. Think of your characters as your children, you certainly wouldn't want your best buddy who spends all weekend playing catch with them to break into your house and make off with them. Sure, its an exaggeration, but I think it helps me make mine and Martin's point considering there is a Game of Thrones fanfiction out there that is longer, yes longer than Martin's 1,000 plus page books.
One of Martin's friends, Diana Gabaldon author of the Outlander series had a rather nasty thing to say about fanfiction that caused her to get into a bit of trouble with her fan-base, "OK, my position on fan-fic is pretty clear: I think it’s immoral, I know it’s illegal, and it makes me want to barf whenever I’ve inadvertently encountered some of it involving my characters.” she then deleted that and wrote a much kinder and professional statement saying that she doesn't want anyone messing with her characters.
Then of course there's the money aspect, which science fiction novelistCharlie Stross wonderfully states, "I am not a precious sparkly unicorn who is obsessed with the purity of his characters — rather, I am a glittery and avaricious dragon who is jealous of his steaming pile of gold. If you do not steal the dragon’s gold, the dragon will leave you alone. Offer to bring the dragon more gold and the dragon will be your friend."
Yes, there are legal and monetary problems when it comes to publishing fanfiction on the internet. In an article written on Whoosh! it basically explains that fanfiction is in fact illegal, but very easy to get away with. It violates copyright infringement and causes many, many authors like Orson Scott Card to say “I will sue, because if I do NOT act vigorously to protect my copyright, I will lose that copyright…So fan-fiction, while flattering, is also an attack on my means of livelihood.”
It's not all doom and gloom though if you love writing fanfiction because there are many authors who are indifferent or encourage it. Stephanie Meyer has mixed feeling and writes, "I hear so many people arguing about fan-fiction. This one and that one. It seems like they are not as much fun anymore. I don’t know….People pour out so much energy and talent into them…It makes me frustrated. I’m like, go write your own story. Put them out there and get them published. That’s what you should be doing. You should be working on your own book right now."
While The Mortal Instruments author Cassandra Clare became famous and practically notorious because of herfamous Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings fanfictions.
To some it up the positive side nicely, author Neil Giaman once said, "I think that all writing is useful for honing writing skills. I think you get better as a writer by writing, and whether that means that you’re writing a singularly deep and moving novel about the pain or pleasure of modern existence or you’re writing Smeagol-Gollum slash you’re still putting one damn word after another and learning as a writer."
While there's plenty of positives in honing your craft as a writer, I can't help but match each positive upon with a negative. While you may be writing a great story about someone else's characters where is that going to get you as a writer? You can't publish it and the author you look up to wrote created those characters would probably end up looking down upon you.
So if I ever publish a book in the near future I'll have to side with George and Diana, stay away from my kids.